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An article by Mark Moxon, travel writer All rights reserved.

India is the original destination for fans of flower power; places like the market in Mysore don't disappoint

I've been excited about India for some time now. How can one fail to be stunned by the statistics about a country that contains one-sixth of the world's population? Check out these selected facts I gleaned from a bunch of articles in Time magazine:

  • Five people die in traffic accidents in Delhi every day.

  • Fully three-quarters of the structures in Delhi violate building standards in some way.

  • Population growth is 2 per cent per year, less than half the rate it was before Nehru's family planning programme in 1951 (which was the first one among developing nations). That's still 18 million new mouths to feed every year, or more than half the population of Canada appearing every year in a country less than one-third of the size.

  • Delhi is the world's fourth most-polluted metropolis. One report estimates that the average Delhi-wallah inhales the toxic equivalent of the smoke from 20 cigarettes every day.

  • The population of India is 950 million1, one-sixth of the world's population. Of these, 350 million are below the poverty line (as many as those living in India at Independence), and 250 million are middle class.

    Delhi: it's certainly a busy place!

  • Of these 950 million most are Hindus; there are over 100 million Muslims (only Indonesia and Pakistan have more), 20 million Christians, 18 million Sikhs, 7.5 million Buddhists, 4 million Jains, and loads of other minority faiths. It's amazing that the country hasn't succumbed to mass violence or dictatorship: the world's largest democracy is fairly docile, outside of hotspots like Kashmir and the activities of Tamil sympathisers in the southeast.

  • More than a million people in Delhi live rough in homemade squats called jhuggi bastis; some even illegally tap into the electricity supply. They endure dysentery, cholera and dengue fever: one in ten babies born to them dies in its infancy. They struggle to eke a living as construction workers, rickshaw peddlers, street hawkers or servants.

  • Delhi is full of historical buildings: there have been at least eight cities there in the last 3000 years, and some scholars say there have been up to 15. Traffic on one of New Delhi's main thoroughfares has to swerve around the masonry slab that marks a Muslim saint's grave; the Delhi Golf Club fairways have royal tombs as unique hazards.

Is it any wonder I've been excited about visiting India for some time now? Compared to the indifference I experienced when I read about Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, India is a major draw card. As I touched down in Calcutta on the morning of January 18th I couldn't wait. I wasn't to be disappointed.

1 It's now broken through the one billion limit...


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